It may be time to reexamine the statistics related to mammograms. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure, one of the leading organizations for raising awareness about breast cancer, is being called out by two Dartmouth Medical School professors who believe that the organization has been overstating the benefits of regular mammograms in their advertisements.
The advertisement states: “The five-year survival rate for breast cancer when caught early is 98 percent. When it’s not? 23 percent.”
The vast disparity makes getting regular mammograms seem more necessary than it is. Dr. Steven Woloshin, co-author of the article in the British Journal, weighs in,
“It sounds like you’d have to be crazy not to get screened. It sounds like a huge benefit. The statistic is totally distorted. If there were an Oscar for misleading statistics, using survival statistics to judge the benefit of screening would win a lifetime achievement award hands down.”
He and his co-author Lisa Schwartz, believe that randomized trials are the best way to determine more accurate numbers regarding screeners. They mention that for every person diagnosed with breast cancer from an early screening, almost 2 in 10 are always misdiagnosed, leading patients to undergo treatment for a cancer that they don’t have.
But Komen’s Vice President of Research, Chandini Portteus, argues that screenings “the best widely available detection tool that we have today. We think it’s simply irresponsible to effectively discourage women from taking steps to know what’s going on with their health.”
What do you think? Is Susan G. Komen misrepresenting mammograms in their advertising, or promoting preventative care?